Processing 53 year old Kodachrome

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As was pointed out in my previous post about Kodachrome getting the film processed as color slides was discontinued years ago. The only alternative way to get the film developed today is to try to develop it as though it was a roll of black and white negative film and use black and white developer or perhaps a process that involved instant coffee.

I was given 3 rolls of Kodachrome II that I assumed was 40 years old to dispose. I decided that instead of throwing it away I’d give developing the film a shot with my usual Diafine black and white film developer and not the process that involved coffee.

Since I had just developed 3 rolls of contemporary conventional black and white film a few hours beforehand I knew my chemicals and developing process was fine.

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I loaded the film onto the spools as I normally would do with film but instead of playing it safe and just developing one roll first then the other two I decided to go for broke and went all in, all or nothing, and processed all 3 rolls at once.

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I developed the film normally and without much fanfare except, for some reason there were black flakes when I poured the chemicals out and back into their containers. Since the funnel I was using contained a built-in strainer I wasn’t worried about the flakes contaminating my chemistry. When the washing process was completed I pulled the film out and the results were…

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Black…all black. Also there was this black mess than dripped off the film.

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Ewww. So, it looked like my process wasn’t as successful as others on the web. I examined the negatives with the bathroom light and it didn’t look good since I couldn’t see anything so I threw the negatives in the kitchen garbage. However, after some thought I decided to keep at least one roll. I retrieved the film and brought it into a room with sunlight. A quick glance at the emulsion side of the film from a bright ray of light I unexpectedly saw some faint individual frame lines.

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On closer inspection I saw two people in one frame. So, the developing process wasn’t a failure after all. Now the challenge was that I had to figure out how to get a picture off that. The negatives are so dense light wouldn’t pass through and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get anything out of it. When I pulled the other two rolls of film from the garbage they too showed frame lines, but I couldn’t see any recognizable image.

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Since I wasn’t sure what I was seeing I suspected that perhaps the film may have been either over developed somehow even though it was processed in the developer normally (3 minutes for each of the two chemical processes (6 minutes total)). I wasn’t sure how I could have gotten rid of the black goo though. I was going to do more research on that to see if I could get rid of it. Stay tuned.

Update 1

So glad I pulled the film from the garbage can and it didn’t make contact with any food that was in it.

Here’s what I found in one of the “holes” in the black goo (I found out the goo is called “rem-jet.” It’s a type of backing on the film).

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Low and behold, something is there!

So overall I was only half done with the processing the Kodachrome film when I completed the black and white process and that I did, in fact, develop the film correctly after all

Apparently there were some people on the website photo.net that might have had a solution of getting rid of the rem-jet backing (the black goo) by using sodium carbonate. It was also mentioned that it would be helpful to keep the water at a pH of 10.

The following came from the site www.photo.net. Alan Marcus seemed to know the answer:

You can processes Kodachome as a black & white using most any common developer. After processing the rem-jet backing can be removed by buffing the back of the film with a soft well washed T-shirt. Removal can be difficult thus the following solution softens.
To make 1 liter
Water 800ml (warm)
Borax 20g
Sodium Sulfate 100g
Sodium Hydroxide 1g

Update 2:

I obtained a bucket, some sea salt (sodium carbonate) and water (of course). I filled the bucket with a mixture of warm water and salt, though I didn’t do any type of measuring or checking of the pH balance. I just opened the container and poured some in. As a side note,  you can use any type of salt. I used sea salt because that was the salt I had handy that didn’t contain iodine.

I also originally poured a small cap full of Clorox All Purpose Cleaner (sodium hydroxide) into the water but it contained bleach. Even though the sodium hydroxide with bleach was heavily diluted with water, I was worried that it would bleach out the silver halide in the film and didn’t want to take any chances so I dumped the mixture.

I took an old, clean t-shirt and hesitantly started wiping the rem-jet backing. I gently stroked the black areas on the film with the T-shirt, starting with the leader. To my amazement the rem-jet wiped off easily. In fact it barely took any effort at all. I could have done that before I hung the film to dry after the the black and white development or right before the washing stage of the developing process.

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The entire process took about 5 minutes because I was double-checking every inch of the film, front and back, for little black flakes or parts I missed. After wiping the rem-jet off the film I washed and dried it as I normally would have done with freshly processed film.

The film still looked pretty dense but on a light box the images revealed themselves.

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You can see that the yellow layer on the film is still there and unfortunately there’s no way to remove that. (I was wrong. See Update 3 below for a way to remove it)

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I then shot photos of each frame with a camera and a flash unit. I then imported and adjusted the frames in Adobe Lightroom.

Here is a positive image of the yellow frame you see above:

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(I’m beginning to believe that the streaks  you see in the photo are due to the yellow layer that I hadn’t taken off. )

So there you have it. Since the year the photo was taken is in one of the photos I know for certain that the Kodachrome II film when processed is 53 year old. Developing the film was easy, but as you read, it took a lot of research and a bit of work to finally get the images.

When you develop Kodachrome at home in black and white developer remove the rem-jet backing before washing your film. It’ll save you a lot of time and it’ll add perhaps 5 minutes to your developing process.

Now you’re in the know on how to develop and get images from Kodachrome (K-14 process) or Kodachrome II film (K-12 process) quickly and efficiently if you just so happen to find an old, exposed roll of Kodachrome sitting around.

Unfortunately now that I know the contents of the images on each of the rolls of film they’re all going to go up in a blaze of fire. The reason is for a different story that will never get written.

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Update 3

I was just reading other people’s experience developing Kodachrome using black and white developer and, as you can see above in my photo, there is a yellow layer on the film. There was a post on www.apug.org for removing the yellow layer. falotico on post #46 wrote:

“This yellow layer is composed of colloidal silver; that is silver grains so small that they can go into colloidal suspension. At this small size they interact more directly with light rays, apparently absorbing blue light more efficiently and thus appear yellow.

The instructions that Kodak gives are simply to mix 1 oz, 28 grams, of anhydrous citric acid into one gallon of Kodak Rapid Fixer which has been mixed to the proper concentration to fix films. The Kodachrome photos are fixed in this for 7-14 minutes at 75-80 degrees f…”

I’m going to finish his quote by saying wash then use Photo Flo, but no rinse afterwards.

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5 thoughts on “Processing 53 year old Kodachrome

    1. Thanks. I made mention of that in my updates. I like the name “black goo” though. Reminds me of the movie Austin Powers and the goo he came out of when being reanimated.

      I’m currently in the process of updating the entire post, but waiting for the film to dry to complete it and “scan” at least one or two photos.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Sodium carbonate most certainly is not sea salt. It is often sold as Washing Soda as a laundry aid, or for raising swimming pool pH in pool stores. (The smart money is buy it at the grocery store!)

    I’ve processed several rolls of movie film in C-42 chemistry years ago. The rem-jet was never the slightest problem, it just comes right off with a rag after fixing. Not sure why it was such a big issue for you. That formula makes no sense at all, it’s like it was throwing common alkali’s in there, from very weak to very strong, when you don’t need anything special at all.

    Chlorox brand bleach is sodium hypochlorite and for the last bunch of years, they add a bit of sodium hydroxide. To give it more punch, or to raise the pH, not sure which. Bleaches w/o the hydroxide are available at dollar stores. Just read the labels.

    Regardless, no household bleach product will bleach film. Film processing bleaches removed unfixed but developed silver halides.

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    1. Thanks. It turned out that the remjet wasn’t such a big deal after all. You’ll see that in my write-up. In the end it was the fear of the unknown.

      I did some research on sodium carbonate and even saw this: “sodium carbonate, also known as washing soda or soda ash, from baking soda or sodium bicarbonate.” I was ready to buy the pH balance chemicals at a pool store or even a pet store where they sold aquarium supplies, but in the end I decided to just use regular water and threw some salt in it. Yes, I admit I may have made a mistake with the sea salt, but after all was said and done, it really didn’t hurt anything.

      Again, thanks for your feedback. It’ll help others who might stumble on the write-up and think the same as you.

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  2. Any idea if Kodachrome 40 movie film type A, Kodachrome II super 8 film and Kodak Ektachrome 160 movie film type A should be thrown out or is there a chance for development?

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